New Sky Deal: Is It Worth It?

The timing of Tuesday’s announcement of the new EFL TV deal with Sky Sports was interesting: all three EFL divisions had almost full midweek programmes and it was almost exactly three months since the Financial Times published this:

‘Premier League football suffered the biggest drop in viewing on Sky TV for at least seven years, raising questions over the popularity of live sports as well as the sustainability of a lucrative source of funding for English clubs.’

If Premier League coverage has reached saturation point – and it appears it has – it’s now clear why Sky Sports rebranded their sports channels during the summer and are looking for a new revenue stream.

That’s us.

So what are we getting in just under two years then? With one major exception – which I’ll come to in a moment – it’s not much more than you’re currently getting with a Sky Sports subscription. They already broadcast games from the EFL, the League Cup and the EFL Trophy.

The first difference is that Sky Sports will be broadcasting ‘sixteen Championship games on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings’: to put that into context, this season there are five midweek programmes of at least ten games each (it’s not clear yet if Boxing Day will be part of the new deal), in which case the new deal means Sky Sports will be broadcasting just under a quarter of those games.

Clearly that’s more than now, but the issue here is which games on which evenings. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that the ‘juicy’ games will be scheduled for broadcast against the Champions League games on BT Sport, which implies that Sky Sports might -at the very least – try to influence the EFL fixture computer. On the other hand, Sky Sports poor record of selecting live games in the Championship might continue: from tomorrow until the end of the month, five games are being televised: we going to be watching eighteenth placed Aston Villa twice, four clubs that are in currently the bottom half of the division and two derbies, only one of which (The Steel City Derby on 24th September) will feature teams currently in the top ten. And all of those teams have played in the Premier League at some point over the last two decades, which makes the match selection process look even lazier, doesn’t it!

As for the League Cup and the EFL Trophy, Championship sides don’t perform well in the former and aren’t even involved in the latter.

However, the unique selling point of this deal is being able to stream Championship games that aren’t (a) on a Saturday and (b) aren’t being televised by Sky via individual club websites. For my club for the duration of this season, that’s currently £110 a year and £12.50 a month: as there won’t be any league games between the end of May and the beginning of August, ten months at £12.50 will cost £15 more than an annual subscription. It’s important to remember that’s what it costs at the moment: it’ll be different in August 2019 anyway and may cost considerably more by then.

Once again, Sky Sports’ bottom line is profit, not necessarily what’s in the best interest of ordinary fans. This is where we come to another issue.

I’m happy to admit that how I watch – or should I say consume – football is a reflection of my age. I’m a season ticket holder at my local club and on average attend at least one or two away games a season. Having grown up with extremely limited options – BBC Radio, the weekly highlights programme on ITV and BBC, Ceefax – I like the idea I can get goal flashes on my mobile phone, but if I’m not at the game then as long as I know what the score is I don’t particularly care.

I have a Sky Sports subscription but I watch just as much Super League and NFL as I do Premier League: I always try to watch Championship and League One games because that’s why this blog and Buzzin’ League One football exist. If there’s a decent midweek game from the Championship on Sky Sports in a couple of years time, I’ll probably watch it if I can find the time.

But I’m not paying any more for that and I suspect I may not be alone.

A very brief look at this weekend’s action now. If I’d been writing a normal post, the game of the week would have been Cardiff City v Sheffield Wednesday, with Millwall v Leeds United and Birmingham City v Preston not far behind. Cardiff lost their unbeaten record earlier this week when they lost 3-0 at Deepdale, but it’s been over a decade since Wednesday won in the Welsh capital.

Don’t forget that next week there are several games in the League Cup featuring Championship teams: if anything dramatic happens I’ll update this post. Otherwise it’s business as usual next Friday, so enjoy the weekend.